Surgical removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is one of the most common operations performed on adults in the United States and Canada every year.
Many adults suffer from gallbladder problems during middle or late adulthood, especially women, who develop gallstones much more than men do.
Turns out, the gallbladder is kinda important! and removal of the gallbladder does NOT treat the root cause of your health issues.
WHAT IS THE GALLBLADDER?
The gallbladder is a little pouch that sits under the liver on the right side of your rib cage.
The gallbladder’s role is in digestion, This small, pear-shaped organ stores small amounts of bile that are released into the small intestine after eating to aid in the digestion of fats. However, it can also become the source of painful and troublesome symptoms should it become inflamed or develop gallstones. Gallstones happen when the bile becomes sludgy and thick and congests inside of the gallbladder. Usually this is a collection of mucus, cholesterol crystals, calcium bilirubinate and calcium salts. When bile becomes too thick, it then alters the gallbladder's ability to contract, impairing digestive function and can be a medical emergency.
How it works
The liver makes bile then gives it to the gallbladder like, "Here, hold onto this until I need it." Then, you release bile when you eat fat to help digest and absorb it.
THE GALLBLADDER'S ROLE IN DIGESTION
If your gallbladder is congested (from the bile becoming too thick- known as cholestasis or "bile sludge") then this will lead to undigested fat and increase your chances of bile stones. Undigested fats can also lead to poor sphincter function in the digestive tract, which facilitates the transport of bacteria from the large intestine into the small intestine, causing a condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO for short. SIBO causes myriad symptoms, including chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea, or both. Bloating is also common with SIBO.
Bile sludge backs up the liver’s detoxification pathways. As a result, the liver cannot effectively detoxify hormones, toxins, and other metabolites. This increases the toxic burden on your system, which in turn increases inflammation.
Most commonly, if bile isn't moving well, we can experience a sudden onset of pain just underneath your right ribcage, in your abdomen, occasionally associated with heartburn, nausea, gas and fullness.
Other symptoms of gallbladder issues include:
floating and greasy stools
pain between the shoulder blades
A chronic ache in your abdomen that intensifies after eating
Bile's important role In Detoxification
Your liver makes bile. Your gallbladder concentrates and releases bile.
Bile is precious, so the body recycles 90+% of bile produced. This is beneficial for nutrient preservation. However, in a toxic environment, this can lead to a majority of toxins being recirculated, forcing the liver to continually reprocess them.
A healthy formation, secretion and flow of bile is super important. If you have gallbladder sludge or stones you might struggle with detoxification and estrogen detoxification.
Other Reasons we NEED Bile for optimal health
Helps you absorb fats and fat soluble vitamins. Breaks down dietary cats and assists the body with nutrient absorption of fat soluble vitamins A,D,E, and K.
Detoxification; Helps remove toxins, prescription medicines, excess hormones and heavy metals from the body. Bile is critical to the detoxification of lipid-soluble toxins: mold toxins, pesticides, and industrial toxins.
Has antibacterial properties to sterilize unwanted guests. Protects your digestive tract from pathogens, SIBO, etc.
Assists with regulating inflammatory response.
Proper bile movement is protective to mitochondria.
Regulates thyroid hormones as it triggers the enzyme that activates conversion of T4 over to T3. A sluggish thyroid also slows down bile flow.
Keeps things moving through your Gastrointestinal tract at the correct pace.
Important for blood sugar and fatty acid metabolism.
Act as a Pac-Man to gobble up impurities in the liver and intestinal villi.
Buffer stomach acid, allowing optimal acid to break down challenging foods.
What factors contribute to gallbladder issues?
These can include obesity, eating a poor diet that contributes to nutrient deficiencies, rapid weight loss, taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills), food allergies, environmental toxins and hormone disrupting chemicals, parasites like liver flukes (which can block the bile duct), and certain genetic factors.
How to improve gallbladder health and Support Healthy Bile flow
1. Change Your Diet
Stop eating crap like refined sugars, flours and inflammatory packaged foods. Instead add in a variety of fiber, quality proteins, fats, vegetables and fruits. Fast foods, processed oils, and fatty packaged meats or cheese can be some of the hardest foods to properly digest. To cut the amount of unhealthy fats in your diet, reduce intake of lunch/deli meats, convenience foods like chips or cookies, salami and other cured meats, pork products, processed dairy, and conventional, grain-fed animal meat.
2. Eat healthy fats regularly:
Coconut oil contains one of the easiest forms of fat for the body to digest, called medium-chained fatty acids. Try and consume healthy fats in small amounts over the course of the day, only about one tablespoon of oil at one time, or about two tablespoons of sprouted nuts and seeds. This is because you don’t want to over consume fats, which puts more stress on the liver and gallbladder. Extra virgin olive oil is another anti-inflammatory fat with many benefits. Avocados and fatty fish like sardines and wild salmon are other great fats to consume.
3. Consume Bitters like Apple cider vinegar, dandelion, milk thistle:
Dandelion root (500 milligrams with meals) — Dandelion has been used for centuries to improve multiple digestive processes, support health of the liver and regulate use of bile.
Milk thistle (150 milligrams twice daily) — It’s been shown that milk thistle increases bile flow and aids the liver and gallbladder in detoxification. Research has found that milk thistle is a natural hepatoprotective (liver protector) and works in some of the following ways: It has antioxidant activity, is a toxin blockade at the membrane level, enhances protein synthesis, and is also capable of producing anti-inflammatory or immunomodulating effects.
Liver-G.I. Detox by Pure Encapsulations is a product I recommend.
(You can access this product on my Fullscript Dispensary Website.)
4. Identify where you are feeling "stuck" in life
In Chinese Medicine its emphasized that excess emotional activity can cause imbalances in the body and cause certain organs to not function optimally.
The emotion tied to the gallbladder is anger and frustration or the feeling of feeling "stuck." An imbalanced gallbladder can be caused by longstanding feelings of repressed emotions.
So it is important to ask yourself where you feel stuck in life?